Who are you?
Mary Swenson, owner of Farm + Sea
What is your business?
A small batch home fragrance company, specializing in coconut & soy wax-based candles and other fragrance goods for home & body
Is there a story behind your business?
I’ve always been entrepreneurial-minded, a little creative, and into design and home decor. I worked for many years in the corporate world, but I always felt this nagging pull that there was something else out there for me. In 2015, I randomly became intrigued by candle making, and after a ton of research and testing, I started making candles pretty steadily from our home. I’d brainstorm business names in my head as I fell asleep at night, and whipped up a simple logo to use on labels. That lead to artisan markets and a couple of local wholesale accounts, and things sort of took off from there.
What problem(s) are you/your business trying to help solve?
The word “simple” is really the key concept behind Farm + Sea. We all have a life crammed full of a million to-do’s, and I really feel like it’s so important to find a bit of pleasure and respite in the simple things. Something like a lit candle giving off a soft scent and cozy feeling, or a silky body lotion with a scent that makes you happy when you put it on, and looking at these things like little treats, daily luxuries. My aesthetic when it comes to things like this are goods that are cleanly packaged and presented, almost like they’re quiet, unassuming reminders to pause and stay in the moment. So I’ve tried to execute that in my branding and products, and I think it’s become something Farm + Sea is known for.
How is your company changing the world?
In a small way, I’d like to think that I’m setting an example for others that having a dream, putting in the work, and staying true to your vision can result in the chance to peruse something you’ve always wanted to try in life.
Why do you like being a part of the bigger CI Works puzzle?
Moving my operation out of our home and into CI Works has been, hands down, the best decision we’ve made yet for our business. It’s allowed me to be more effective by having a larger, more efficient workspace, and having access to a loading dock has been a game-changer. And being surrounded by truly unique mix of entrepreneurs is a source of daily inspiration – one of my favorite things every week is hearing the sounds of music and laughing customers from BareWolf Brewing downstairs. It’s always an instant mood-changer for me, and a reminder that all of the hard work that goes into creating a business that you’re passionate about is worth it.
What do you hope your company’s next milestone will be?
Bringing on a permanent employee or two, so that I can increase productivity and shift some of my focus to the sales, creative direction, and longer-term business strategies of the company.
What’s cool about your team?
My team – whom I consider my husband, family & friends, and my customers - are enthusiastic believers in the power of a small, independent, woman-run business. They’re the ones that keep me motivated during the 7-day-a-week work weeks, supplier issues, production snags…and nothing makes them happier than seeing someone live their dream and create products that have a devoted customer base. They are my biggest cheerleaders!
Are there any causes you are passionate about?
Supporting small, independent businesses is a huge part of what my husband and I stand for and are passionate about. Not only do we believe that small businesses are the key to thriving communities, but when someone takes a leap of faith – and, in many cases, a big financial risk – to start their own business, to sort of go against what society tells them they should be doing, to pass through all the barriers to entry…that’s something that truly inspires us.
What is your biggest fear?
Regret. What-ifs and should’ves can really weigh on you, and life is short…so I try to live with intention and be as true to myself as possible.
What is your proudest accomplishment?
Being able to leave a full-time job where I had seniority and security to work full-time on a business that I created from literally nothing.
What is something most people don’t know about you/your brand?
Probably that an enormous amount of thought and consideration goes into my products and branding, and that I’ve only scratched the surface of what’s in my head for Farm + Sea!
What advice do you have for other small businesses?
Staying true to your brand’s vision and purpose is what will differentiate you from everyone else in your niche. Having a clear understanding of who you are and what your brand stands for leaves little room for worrying about what the competition is doing.